The Power of Teamwork: Great Healthcare Starts with a Great Medical Team
Each of your doctors and specialists is part of a medical team. Does that team work well together?
We often think of successful people as individuals, but everyone from Ben Franklin to Steve Jobs has spoken about the value of surrounding yourself with a smart team. A talented, supportive team is especially important in the medical field, because it improves patient outcomes.
When a patient is choosing a new doctor, they typically look at them as an individual. They consider the doctor's area of expertise, training, location, reputation, and the potential cost of a visit, but they may not give much thought to the doctor's colleagues and how well they work together. The next time you need a doctor, I encourage you to broaden your perspective and consider the whole team.
In the ER, Teams Work Together to Provide Great Care
For many years, I ran hospital Emergency Departments in New York City, where I saw firsthand how a great medical team benefits patients. In addition to the ER staff, many healthcare practitioners from outside the ER added to the team, including respiratory therapists, pharmacists, and social workers.
In this environment, an ER doctor can walk over to a pharmacist in real time to consult about a medication issue with an ER patient, instead of calling the pharmacy department and potentially waiting for answers. At the same time, the pharmacists developed a working knowledge of emergency medicine, gaining new insights into patient care. Our pharmacists even gave educational talks to our attending doctors and students.
A Collaborative Approach Results in Better Care
As a health advisor, people often come to me for help finding top doctors in their area or determining which hospital or other facility will best meet their needs. Before my team and I make any recommendations, we conduct a thorough vetting process. One of the factors we consider is the depth of the medical team, because it can have a significant effect on the quality of the patient's care. When a cross-disciplinary team works well together, the team’s collective intelligence leads to better solutions.
For example: One of our clients, Tamara*, is a 49-year-old woman from Boston in treatment for breast cancer. Recently, on a walk with her dog, she was pulled awkwardly and broke her arm. She went to the ER, and then to an orthopedic surgeon who prescribed physical therapy and pain medication. She also consulted with her oncologist, who works at a large academic cancer center.
The oncologist suspected that Tamara’s arm may have broken because of a tumor in her arm and consulted with an orthopedic oncologist. The orthopedic oncologist saw Tamara, confirmed this diagnosis, and prescribed radiation to heal her arm, which was a success.
Tamara got better care because her doctors are part of a powerful team that communicates and collaborates to find answers for patients like her.
A strong, connected team gives providers efficient access to more expertise. The same principle rings true with other healthcare programs: a geriatrician with a hearing specialist on staff, a mental health program with a neuropsychologist on staff, or a nursing home with a podiatrist on staff.
Managing Your Medical Team
If you don't have a cohesive medical team in place, it doesn't mean you have to find new doctors. Just keep the value of a team in mind as you make decisions about your health care in the future.
Many providers are very busy and have little time to focus on each individual patient. For a customized and personal approach to your health, consider working with a health advisor. An expert health advisor will not only make sure you have great providers, but also communicate directly with them to simplify the process of getting great care. The health advisor can also consult and collaborate with other experts on your team, including your wealth advisor, attorney, and accountant. A health advisor coordinates your healthcare, so you can focus on other things.
*For client confidentiality, all names and identifying details have been changed.